Can I Grow A Dwarf Lilac In A Container?

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Although lilacs are typically large shrubs, smaller varieties can be grown in containers. These smaller plants are perfect for patios, balconies, and decks. However, don’t let the term “dwarf” mislead you into choosing the wrong container type for growing dwarf lilacs!

Dwarf lilacs can be grown successfully in a container at least 12 inches deep and 24 inches wide. The larger the container, the better, since they have a large root structure. Use a neutral to slightly alkaline potting soil, and keep the soil moist but not wet to enjoy a healthy bloom display.

Dwarf lilacs are smaller than standard lilacs, but are still not small plants. The size of the dwarf lilac bush requires larger containers than many other container-compatible plants. The root systems of the lilac plants become quite large, which is one of the biggest considerations when choosing the right container for growing these plants.

Does Dwarf Lilac Grow Well In Containers?

Standard lilac plants can become quite large and have a comparatively large root system. These lilac plants do not like the restrictions of a container and do not grow well in pots or containers.

If you want to grow lilacs in a container, your best option is to choose a dwarf variety such as Pixie, Minuet, Munchkin, or Dwarf Korean Lilac.

Some varieties not considered dwarf lilacs, such as the Syringa pubescens and the Red Pixie, are compact versions that grow well in appropriate containers.

What Is The Best Container For Growing Dwarf Lilac?

Dwarf lilacs may not appear to grow as large above the ground, but their root systems are large compared to other container-size plants.

Consequently, the container you choose to grow dwarf lilacs should be larger than you think. The dwarf lilac varieties need a container at least 12 inches or 30cm deep and 24 inches or 60cm wide to give the roots plenty of room to expand.

Dwarf lilacs are smaller and more compact than standard lilacs, but you can still expect these plants to reach between 4 and 5 feet or 1.2 meters and 1.5 meters in height and between 5 and 7 feet or 1.5 meters and 2.1 meters wide. Consequently, the container must have a wide base to prevent the plant from becoming top heavy and falling over in a strong breeze.

Regardless of size and type, all lilacs need well-drained soil. Therefore, you must use containers with drainage holes to prevent standing water in the base of the pot or container. Waterlogging is one of the major causes of poor lilac health, which results in diminished flower production.

Larger containers offer better protection for the roots from overheating in summer and extreme cold in winter. A larger container also reduces the frequency of watering required for the dwarf lilacs.

Avoid using black plastic containers to grow your dwarf lilac bush, as they absorb too much heat and may scorch the roots.

If you have very cold winters, terra-cotta pots are not good for growing dwarf lilacs. The porous material retains too much water, resulting in the container’s soil becoming too cold. Freezing winter temperatures can also cause the terra-cotta pots to crack and break.

Best Soil For growing Dwarf Lilac In Containers

Lilacs do not like acidic soil but prefer neutral to slightly alkaline soil on the pH scale as a growing environment. Most commercial potting soils and mixes are slightly acidic because they contain peat moss, so you need to take care in your choice of potting soil for the dwarf lilacs.

The best soil for growing dwarf lilac in containers is fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 7.0 to 7.5. If you cannot get potting soil without peat in the mix, you can add a cup of lime, preferably dolomite lime, to every 2 cubic feet or 0.5 cubic meters of potting soil.

You can create your own dwarf lilac potting soil by mixing 50% well-aged, manure-rich compost with 25% top-soil and 25% moisture retention material such as coconut coir or perlite. Do not add peat moss as a moisture retention ingredient; this will add unwanted acidity to the growing environment.

How To Care For A Dwarf Lilac In A Container

Dwarf Lilac plants do not require a lot of maintenance once they have become established in their growing container.

You may need to prune them annually to control the size of the plant and keep it manageable for the space where you have positioned it.

Once established, Dwarf lilacs will bloom with their richly-scented flowers in late spring. Standard lilacs take up to five years to flower, while dwarves bloom within their first two years.

To keep the dwarf lilac blooming frequently, it is good practice to deadhead the flowers on the plant that are past their prime.

How Often Should You Water A Dwarf Lilac In A Container?

A good rule of thumb for planting a lilac shrub is to give it enough water to keep the growing medium moist but never wet.

Lilacs should be watered once a week or so, depending on the season. Watering should only be done when the potting soil dries one inch below the surface.

Water at the roots, and try not to get the leaves wet. Wet leaves promote bacterial blight, which causes the leaves to display yellow halos and the flower buds to blacken. The leaves will become brown to black in advanced stages. The remedy is to water at the roots and prune away any diseased parts of the plant.

How Often Should You Fertilize A Dwarf Lilac In A Container?

Dwarf lilacs would not need much feeding if you gave them the correct potting soil when first planting them in the container.

Feed your container-grown dwarf lilacs annually in early spring, using a balanced 10-10-10 (NPK) fertilizer. Another alternative is to feed the lilac with a handful of bonemeal annually in the spring. Bonemeal helps to keep the growing medium slightly alkaline.

Do not give the plants a nitrogen-rich fertilizer during the rest of the growing season, as this will stimulate foliage growth and discourage flowering. You don’t want to do anything that will prevent your dwarf lilacs from putting on their spectacular flower show!

How Much Sun Does Dwarf Lilac Need?

Lilac plants have mild climate requirements; they do not like extreme heat nor tolerate extreme cold very well. However, they need the cold weather to set the flower buds for the coming flowering season.

If you are growing dwarf lilacs in containers in a region with extreme winters, you may need to take them into an unheated garage or shed for the harshest part of the winter or until there is no chance of a hard frost.

Make sure the container is situated where it will receive at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. They like a lot of direct sunlight for their blooming and growth.

You can put them in partial shade, but you shouldn’t place them in full shade, as they won’t have the best blooming ability and may become susceptible to powdery mildew on the leaves.


Dwarf lilac plants grown in containers make a beautiful addition to patios, decks, large balconies, or rooftop gardens. Their flower displays are prolific and beautiful, making them a sought-after decorative plant.

Don’t underestimate the size of the container needed for dwarf lilac plants to thrive; give them neutral to slightly alkaline soil, keep the soil moist, and you will be rewarded with beautiful blooms!


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